Wowd, Kosmix Aim to Claim Corners of Google's Search Sandbox

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2009-10-26

The Web 2.0 Summit Oct. 20 to 200 was ripe with search engine news. For those who missed it, Twitter pledged to let Microsoft Bing and Google serve up its content. Google unveiled Social Search.

Even as the giants made bold moves, startups focused on discovery to make news of their own. Wowd joined the real-time search ranks, while search engine Kosmix bought Cruxlux, a small software maker that charts relationships.

Wowd CEO Mark Drummond launched Wowd as a public beta onstage at the Web 2.0 Summit Oct. 20. Drummond said while Google, Bing and Yahoo are fine search engines, they are not good at helping users find what's hot and relevant. Wowd focuses on discovery: Users enter queries and the algorithm returns trends, breaking news, social media topics and popular pages from around the Web.

Traditional search, he said, starts with the premise that users already know a bit about the topic they want to search for-they just want to know more, so they enter the query in the search box, hit enter and wait for results.

"Web 2.0 is conversational in nature," Drummond said. "People are talking a lot more than they are listening." Specifically, they are using Twitter, Digg and other social tools to communicate. Users who want to know what is going on can check those Websites, or go to existing real-time search engines such as Collecta, CrowdEye and Topsy.

Drummond argued that Wowd is the place users should go to surface that info.

As with Google, Yahoo and Bing, users can enter search queries on the Wowd site and the service will return results. But Wowd also offers a browser application users can download. Available for Windows, Linux and Mac machines, this application enables what the company calls the "Wowd cloud," anonymously nominating public Web pages for inclusion in Wowd search results when people visit them.

Think of it as Digg, albeit without the explicit voting. The more Wowd users look at certain Web pages, the greater their relevance becomes, which means those Web pages will bubble up to the top of Wowd before others. The technology handles trillions of data items and hundreds of millions of users.

The voting system sets it apart from the rest of the real-time gaggle, but Wowd still has to compete with Bing and Google, which are indexing Twitter tweets.

While Wowd focuses on red-hot, real-time discovery, Kosmix focuses on its own brand of discovery. The search engine does not currently surface info in real time, though it does let users explore the Web by topic. Moreover, instead of delivering the status quo of 10 blue links, it provides a dashboard of videos, photos, news, commentary, communities and links associated with topics users are researching.

Kosmix provides universal search, with a serendipitous bent. Kosmix co-founder Venky Harinarayan met with eWEEK at the event to discuss the company's purchase of Cruxlux.

The startup mines the Web for the relationships between people, places and things. Give Cruxlux any two topics, and it will sniff out the relationships between them and provide URLs to show the connections. 

The Cruxlux technology will fuel the "Related in the Kosmos" section on each topic page.

Harinarayan also said while Kosmix has no imminent plans to surface real-time info, the company is headed in that direction. That's a good thing; real time defines the pulse of most searchers today.

Real time, of course, formed the crux of the news Microsoft, Google and Twitter unveiled at the Web 2.0 Summit.

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